Learning and Memory.An introduction to theories of learning

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5 November 2015

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Learning and Memory


            Cleaning the room is the target behaviour in Bobby’s case. Mr. Kelly tries to keep on reminding his eight year old child to clean his room but it is always in vain. Since Mr. Kelly needs help in increasing the frequency of his child cleaning his room it could be assumed that bobby is trained and knows how to clean his room. The possible reason as to why he keeps on refraining from this task is however unclear.

            Operant conditioning is a method of learning that incorporates acquisition of behaviour and facing the consequences of the behaviour. In this type of learning rewards are given to the learner either to encourage or discourage future repetition of the same behaviour (Olson & Hergenhahn, 2013). Operant conditioning can be used to encourage Bobby in cleaning up his room. Through the various components of operant conditioning Mr. Kelly can apply to encourage Bobby clean his room. Operant conditioning has two major concepts, reinforcement and punishment, which could be used in different ways to encourage bobby to clean his room.

            Reinforcement involves using reward that would otherwise increase the chances of bobby cleaning his room more often. Mr. Kelly could use various rewards such as giving bobby time to watch T.V, buying little gifts that are issued each time bobby cleans his room. Such motivating factors will encourage bobby to clean up his room. Reinforcement is of two types, positive and negative reinforcement, both ways can be capitalised in changing the behaviour of bobby. In positive reinforcement for instance Mr. Kelly needs to look for items such as toys or bars of chocolate, preferably Mr. Kelly could choose some of the items bobby loves most and use them to reward bobby after cleaning the room.

            Continuous use of negative reinforcement over a long period of time would lead to Bobby developing an attitude towards cleaning his room. Thus positive reinforcement could be applied. For reinforcement to be effective both method should be used concurrently. Fixed ratio schedule and variable ratio schedules can be used to implement and encourage bobby to always clean the room. Fixed ratio schedule will always reward bobby after a number of times he has cleaned the room. This method will give immediate positive responses from bobby but would be consuming for Mr. Kelly. Variable ratio schedule would award bobby after irregular intervals of response from him. This can be very effective to reinforce Bobby to clean the room because the reinforcement can come all through the first week and make the reluctance of cleaning the house an extinct behaviour.

            I will apply the operant conditioning to account for Jackie’s development of the behaviour of phobia towards dogs. This is because the operant conditioning shows or explains why the organisms will acquire learned behaviour that they exhibit. The vital focus of operant conditioning is by use of reinforcements as punishments or reward so as to increase or decrease the likelihood of occurrence or repetition of certain behaviour (Staddon & Cerutti, 2003). In the case of Jackie, she received a negative reinforcement from the dog bite and hence the phobia towards dogs development. Also the stitches and the time that she spent on medication made her develop the negative attitude towards dogs. This is because, in operant conditioning, it is clear that continued use of negative reinforcement will lead to the victim developing an attitude towards that object or behaviour.

            Some of the behaviour modification that could be designed to help Jackie to overturn the phobia that she has with dogs could be: Jackie could first of all spend time with her spouse with a company the trained dogs. This will help Jackie to see that dogs were not wild and they always do not bite any time you had an encounter with them. This will somehow help her reverse the phobia she had towards dogs and also help her see the positive side of the dogs. She should also be allowed to spend time with the trained dogs with the dogs being guided by the trainer to remain lively, obedient and helpful to Jackie. This will act as a positive reinforcement towards Jackie’s behaviour. She will slowly by slowly start liking dogs and hence they will have a happy life with her partner thereafter.

            There are two main principles of operant conditioning that are evident in the case of Emma. First by the parents trying to offer Emma some kind of reward, they are trying to positively reinforce the behaviour of cleaning her room and toys through the principle of positive reinforcement. Also through putting her out, they are applying the principle of positive punishment by trying to add something bad so that she cannot repeat the same mistake.

            Operant conditioning theory could be applied in this case to correct Emma’s behaviour through application of the four main principles of operant conditioning. The parents could apply the principle of negative punishment which is to take something good away so as to decrease certain behaviour. Through application of this principle, they could cut away buying of toys to Emma so that she could be reinforced to clean the room. Also through negative reinforcement principle, which is taking something bad so as to reinforce behaviour could be applied by Emma’s parents. They could stop putting her in time any time that she cleans her room so that she can be reinforced to always clean her room and toys.

            Extinction of behaviour in operant conditioning theory can be defined as the disappearance of previously learned behaviour if the behaviour is not reinforced (Hunt et al, 2008). As we have earlier said, reinforcement is the necessity for learning and in which certain behaviour grows. It is either a means to encourage or discourage certain behaviour (Olson & Hergenhahn, 2013). For instance, the Emma is conditioned to the behaviour that when she screams hard and through the toys away, her parents will collect them and clean them up for her. If the parents stopped this behaviour, Emma could not adopt this behaviour because it will lack reinforcement and slowly it will cease and become extinct.


Hunt, Elgin F. and Colander, David C. (2008). Social Science, An Introduction to the Study of Society.

Olson, M. H. & Hergenhahn, B. R. (2013). An introduction to theories of learning (9th ed.). Upper Saddle; River, NJ: Pearson.

Staddon, J. E. R., & Cerutti, D. T. (2003). Operant conditioning. Annual Review of Psychology, 54, 115-44.

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